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Carpentry students nail SkillsUSA competition

Pocahontas County High School senior Travis Taylor took first place in carpentry at the state SkillsUSA competition. Pocahontas County High School TeamWorks members stand within the structure they built at the state SkillsUSA competition at Camp Dawson. From left, Patrick Collins, Chad Burns, Wes Brown and Chris Varner earned second place for their efforts. Photos courtesy of Duane Gibson
Pocahontas County High School senior Travis Taylor took first place in carpentry at the state SkillsUSA competition. Pocahontas County High School TeamWorks members stand within the structure they built at the state SkillsUSA competition at Camp Dawson. From left, Patrick Collins, Chad Burns, Wes Brown and Chris Varner earned second place for their efforts. Photos courtesy of Duane Gibson

Taylor moving on to nationals

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the state SkillsUSA competition at Camp Dawson last week, Pocahontas County High School students put their skills to the test and found themselves on the leader board.

Senior Travis Taylor placed first in the individual carpentry contest and the TeamWorks foursome – seniors Chad Burns, Patrick Collins, Chris Varner and junior Wesley Brown – placed second.

Along with showing their carpentry skills, the TeamWorks students were also challenged in the trades of masonry, plumbing and electricity.

Carpentry teacher Duane Gibson was very pleased with his students and was proud of their success.

“For me, placing first in carpentry is great,” he said. “I’m excited about that. I’m also excited about placing second in TeamWorks because we don’t have a plumbing program; we don’t have a masonry program. The electricity program has gone by the wayside. All the trades – including carpentry, of course – are coming out of my class. For us to compete in metal against schools that have all those programs, I think we’re doing really well. That’s what really excites me – when a team wins.”

Gibson prepared the students as well as he could, but the problem is, they never know what to expect at the competition until they are handed the blueprints and materials.

“They walked in and were given a set of prints,” Gibson said. “They said ‘here’s what you’re going to build and here’s your pile of material.’ That’s the way the competitions are. The carpentry competition is the same way – here’s your print, here’s your material.”

The coordinators of the competition also throw in some kinks for the students to overcome.

“There were some issues with materials,” Gibson said. “There were also some issues with the print. I’ve always told my guys to build to the print. There were things about the door header height being 6’1” instead of 6’10.” There’s always some obstacles they have to cross.”

Despite the obstacles, the students excelled. Taylor beat out 30 competitors to take first place. To hear him tell it, it was a piece of cake.

“The competition started that morning about 8 a.m. and they had until 3 p.m. to finish the competition,” he said. “I finished up about 10:45, 11 a.m. Once I found out what the print was, I knew it was going to be pretty easy.”

Taylor was tasked with building a small house, complete with a door opening, roof and rafters.

“I had to build a four by eight frame, put ply board on it and then stood three walls on it,” he said. “I framed out for a door, put a roof on it with rafters and that’s about it. I didn’t have any help. I had to hold my boards and cut them myself. There’s nobody to even hold a board for you.”

Taylor has been a carpentry student for four years. Not one to sit idle, he began his career with a job at Jacob Meck Construction. With only one class this semester, Taylor uses his time wisely and is allowed to leave school to work for the construction company.

“[Principal Robert] Miller is like ‘I’d rather see you go out and make money than sit here and cause trouble,’” Taylor said with a laugh.

In the TeamWorks competition, each student was assigned a discipline, yet they were allowed to help each other with all tasks. Burns did electricity, Collins did masonry, Varner did carpentry and Brown did plumbing.
Once the team had their blueprints, they worked together to complete walls, installing outlets and a vanity sink.

“We were more prepared for a state level print, but the blueprints they gave us were from a national level so we weren’t as prepared as we thought we were,” Collins said. “We did pretty well. We just read the blueprints and went off of that.”

While the team had a specific discipline to focus on, they have learned all four in their time as carpentry students.

“I just chose plumbing because the electrician last year graduated, so they moved the plumber from last year to head carpenter,” Brown said. “I’m more of a framing type person but it’s good to know plumbing. It’s something that will help you in life, for sure.”

“I’m more interested in electricity,” Burns said. “I like doing that kind of work. I was only able to take one electricity class and Mr. Gibson taught me the rest.”

The team had a great group dynamic which helped them excel against their competition.

“It definitely helps to have a team to work with,” Burns said. “We could all work together. If somebody needed help, someone would jump in and help.”

Fourth teammate, Varner, was unavailable for an interview because, like Taylor, he is working this semester. He is employed as a carpenter by the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad in Durbin.

“He’s been remodeling part of the depot,” Gibson said. “He came in the other day and said all the water lines are frozen so he’s being the plumber, too.”

Even though the team does not move on to the national competition, they did very well, and enjoyed the experience.

Collins plans to attend West Virginia University and pursue a degree in an engineering field. Burns plans to become a physical therapist.

After graduation, Varner will continue working for the railroad.

Brown, an upcoming senior, is the only member of the team to remain at PCHS and his plan is simple.
“I’m coming back, and we’re going for first,” he said.

Taylor will attend the national competition this summer in Louisville, Kentucky, where he will compete against carpentry students from all over the country.

Neither Taylor nor Gibson are worried about his chances, though.

“He’s sort of a natural,” Gibson said. “He just has it in his blood, I think.”

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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